Thursday, January 26, 2023
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NBA Preview: Indiana Pacers (4-8) at Utah Jazz (8-3)

The Indiana Pacers couldn’t take advantage of facing a Denver Nuggets squad that didn’t have reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic on Wednesday night, missing a 3-point attempt in the final second and losing 101-98.

It’s not going to get any easier for Indiana on Thursday night in Salt Lake City as the Pacers wrap up their four-game road trip with a game against the Utah Jazz.

Utah had Wednesday off after routing the visiting Atlanta Hawks 110-98 on Tuesday.

The Pacers will have to put Wednesday’s disappointing result behind them quickly to have a chance against a Jazz team that’s off to a great start to the season.

At Denver, Indiana allowed the Nuggets’ Jeff Green to score a wide-open layup on an inbounds pass with 12.6 seconds left to fall behind by four. The Pacers got a layup and then had a chance after Denver made just 1 of 2 free throws, but Indiana couldn’t force overtime when Jeremy Lamb’s desperation 3-point shot went awry.

“We should have been more dominant from the jump ball,” said Indiana forward Domantas Sabonis, who had 20 points and 19 rebounds in the loss. “We had a couple of days off, and playing at altitude got us a bit, but that’s no excuse. We missed on a great opportunity (Wednesday night).”

Along with not being able to stop Will Barton, who scored a season-high 30 points, the Pacers were frustrated that a foul called against the Nuggets was overturned with 42.9 seconds remaining. Sabonis appeared to have been fouled from behind by Green on a layup attempt with Indiana trailing by two.

The Nuggets challenged the call, and referees overturned it after reviewing the play.

“It was a big call, but we had one overturned in our favor, too,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “A game that’s played around 100 points in today’s game, things are going to be very magnified on a possession-by-possession basis. That’s pretty much the story of this game.”

Unlike the Nuggets, who were without the suspended Jokic, the Jazz come into their matchup with Indiana at full strength. Utah is also coming off of a very efficient offensive outing against Atlanta. The Jazz shot 50.6 percent from the floor and won handily despite scoring only 15 points in the fourth quarter.

Donovan Mitchell had one of his best games of the season with 27 points on 11-for-20 shooting.

“It’s less about running the team and managing the game as it is making the right play,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “He’s capable of doing a lot of things on the court whether he’s off the ball or he’s handling the ball.”

The Jazz’s defense played a significant role in the victory that helped Utah get back in the win column after road losses last weekend in Miami and Orlando. Utah limited the Hawks to 18 fourth-quarter points while holding Trae Young and Kevin Huerter scoreless in the final 12 minutes after the pair combined to score 55 points in the first three quarters.

“It just started on the defensive end,” Mitchell said. “We were making shots, we were going back and forth. But when we really honed in on our defense and got stops going, it busted the lead open.”

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